As Leafs fans gear up for training camp, a review of the Toronto Maple Leafs’ prospects can whet the appetite in anticipation of which youngsters have the brightest futures on the team.
Editor In Leaf
Hockey’s Future does a great job of providing in-depth analysis of every prospect you can imagine. Though the website’s outlook is a little bleak for the Leafs (few high-end forwards, no offensive defencemen, no goalies…), Leafs fans do have some reasons for future hope as Brendan Shanahan, Kyle Dubas, and Dave Nonis (yep, that order is on purpose) focus on rebuilding the Leafs’ pipeline of young talent.
*note: I guess it’s not rebuilding if there’s never really been a pipeline. Let’s just go with building.
Here is a brief rundown of the best Leafs forward prospects currently in the team’s system.
William Nylander – Centre
Jun 27, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; William Nylander poses for a photo with team officials after being selected as the number eight overall pick to the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round of the 2014 NHL Draft at Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports
"Makes accurate, sometimes dazzling passes that lead viewers to wonder if he has eyes in the back of his head… His overall hockey sense is special; shows a feeling and understanding for the game that few players seem to enjoy.–Hockey’s Future on William Nylander, Toronto Maple Leafs prospect"
Known for his flowing blonde locks, NHL semi-star father, and huge self-confidence, Nylander is a highly skilled offensive forward. This is the type of forward prospect that the Leafs have yearned to have in the system. Hockey’s Future rates Nylander as an 8/10 talent with a C-grade for probability of success. To keep this in perspective, Tomas Hertl, Ryan Strome, Griffin Reinhart, and Anthony Mantha all have identical ratings.
Whether he plays in North America or Sweden this year, Nylander will be hard to deny a spot in the Leafs lineup for long.
Connor Brown – Right Wing
"He has a knack for scoring goals, but also has strong vision that allows him to set-up up teammates for offensive chances. Skating remains an area of focus…– Hockey’s Future on Connor Brown, Toronto Maple Leafs prospect"
Another highly skilled offensive forward, Brown rates a 7.5/10 talent score with a D-grade for probability of success. These are the same ratings given to Nicolas Petan of the Winnipeg Jets and slot Brown in at 50th on Hockey’s Future’s top 50 list of prospects. Brown’s shot will be his strong suit in the pros and developing his skating motor will ensure he is playing in Toronto soon.
Josh Leivo – Left Wing
"He can play a variety of roles which makes him a versatility player. His size allows him to work very well down low and he protects the puck effectively…– Hockey’s Future on Josh Leivo, Toronto Maple Leafs prospect"
Oct 17, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs left wing Josh Leivo (32) celebrates his first career goal in the second period against the Carolina Hurricanes at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
With a talent score of 7.5/10 and a C-grade for probability of success, Leivo shares his rating scores with Nikita Zadorov of the Buffalo Sabres, Alexander Wennberg of the Columbus Blue Jackets, and Bo Horvat of the Vancouver Canucks. Leivo is likely destined for third line work in the NHL, combining an ability to play multiple positions with skills on special teams and a willingness to play with energy.
In the end, though the farm system isn’t overflowing with talent, the Leafs finally seem to have turned a corner. In-house prospects are developing, some offensive skill is on its way to the Air Canada Centre, and the future for the Leafs is definitely as bright as its been in years, even if that isn’t saying much.
What do you think, Leafs fans? Are you glad to have some prospects moving up through the ranks or is it time to deal them away and make a push for the post-season right away?